By Adam Vaughan
A study saying the sun caused climate change has been retracted
MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A prominent scientific journal has retracted a study claiming that climate change was due to solar cycles rather than human activity.
Last year, Scientific Reportscame under fire for publishing a paper that researchers said made elementary mistakes about how Earth moves around the sun.
Today the journal, published by Nature Research, which also has Nature in its stable of titles, formally retracted the paper by a team at UK universities and an institution in Azerbaijan.
The withdrawn study had argued that the average global 1°C temperature rise since the pre-industrial period was due not to humanitys greenhouse gas emissions but to the distance between Earth and the sun changing over time as the sun orbits the barycentre, the solar systems centre of mass. In a statement today, Scientific Reports said that was inaccurate.
The journal said that calculations show: The Earth-sun distance varies over a timescale of a few centuries by substantially less than the amount reported in this article. As a result, the editors no longer have confidence in the conclusions presented.
Ken Rice at the University of Edinburgh, UK, who wasn’t involved in the study, says he thinks papers should only be retracted in extreme circumstances, but it was warranted in this case due to fundamental errors.
Solar system orbital dynamics is extremely well understood, and it wouldn’t have taken much for the authors to have checked if their claims about the significance of the motion of the sun around the solar system barycentre were indeed correct, he says.
“This is sensible and a welcome move from the journal,” says Gavin Schmidt at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Valentina Zharkova at the University of Northumbria, one of the paper’s authors, says the retraction was unfair and the corrections made to the paper were minor.
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By Adam Vaughan